[#2019oscardeathrace] The Wife (2017)

Director: Bjorn Runge

Cast: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Max Irons, Harry Lloyd, Annie Starke, Elizabeth McGovern

Screenplay: Jane Anderson

99 mins. Rated R for language and some sexual content.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role [Glenn Close] [Pending]

 

The Wife is a movie that has slipped by unnoticed by the public and, if not for the nomination of Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction, Father Figures), it may have disappeared entirely. I was well-aware of the love that has been thrown her way for this performance, so I hunted down a copy of the film knowing very little about it. The question being lobbed around by film pundits and critics is whether or not Close was nominated for her performance in the film or her career.

Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce, Tomorrow Never Dies, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote) has just been informed that he is to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. His wife, Joan (Close) is overjoyed for her husband, and the two depart for Stockholm. As the ceremony draws closer, Joan confronts her choices in her life that led her to this point as she is pursued by a frustrated biographer, Nathanial Bone (Christian Slater, True Romance, TV’s Mr. Robot), searching for the couple’s secret.

The question of whether or not Close’s performance is worthy is a simple one: it is. Now, I wouldn’t say she gives the best performance of the year, but hers is a role filled with emotion and visual flair. She acts with her eyes in a sometimes muted performance that flows with regret and frustration in what could be called a late mid-life crisis as the secrets of her past come forth. It’s an incredibly moving story marred by historical and cultural shifts. I felt myself emotionally broken watching Joan as she discovers what she’s been missing with her own life. I won’t get into specifically spoilery territory but it is something to watch her bare her soul.

Merit should also be given to Pryce and Slater for their terrific turns. Slater is engaging and secretive, always holding his cards close. His performance is similar to the small bit he played in Interview with the Vampire. Pryce, though, is multi-layered, a man with regrets of his own who has seemingly lost touch with himself and doesn’t see the world through a realistic lens. His isn’t a likable character for the most part, but his is definitely an understandable character. What’s fascinating about the duality between Pryce’s Joe and Close’s Joan is just how close they are to each other while being two sides of the same coin. There are shades of both husband and wife in each of us.

Outside of the production design and sets, there isn’t a whole lot of technical flair to the film. Director Bjorn Runge (Daybreak, Happy End) tends to let his focus stick to the characters. The screenplay from Jane Anderson (Olive Kitteridge, Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson) is elegant and slowly burns to an intense and emotional finale, one that stayed with me long after leaving the theater.

The Wife isn’t flashy or visually evocative in the way that so many films are. It is beautiful and nuanced and the type of film that most people aren’t likely to see. That shouldn’t take away from the story and the characters which are well-performed and heartbreakingly realistic. This is a film I would implore you to see as soon as you can.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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